We should join hands to uproot the graft tree and what feeds it

Thinking of the culture of corruption in Kenya, it is quickly swallowing up the integrity tree. It, therefore, requires a concerted effort to remove. [iStockphoto]

Without doubt, this has been a head-spinning week! Stepping into the office of Chairperson of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is not anything that even crossed my mind a few months ago - but the reality in there is sobering.

But let me thank the President for entrusting me with the task of tackling one of the greatest challenges facing this country.

I also sincerely appreciate the many Kenyans who have extended their messages of congratulations, commiseration and prayers - especially prayers.

There is a sense in which three factors have landed me here. One is that for some strange reason, I fell in love with this country early in life.

For several years, I have spent my own time and resources trying to do whatever little I could to contribute to the betterment of our nation.

Second, I come into this space with a naive zeal that Kenya can be transformed. If others have done it, we too must aspire and work towards living in a nation where every one of us gets value for money in our every endeavour and easily secures the services we deserve without being privately taxed.

Thirdly, I have not deceived myself that I will be the David that falls the giant with a single shot, but that we can raise an army of like-minded Kenyans, and with the help God, overwhelm this giant.

Several years ago, we planted a beautiful exotic tree in our compound. The tree was known for its beautiful shade and safe roots around the house.

But as the tree got to a reasonable height, we noticed a climber plant had twisted itself around our tree. Not thinking much about it, we did nothing.

Much later, we discovered this small creeper had begun to slowly swallow up the original tree, and its roots were growing in different directions and producing offshoots. Fact - we had left the parasite too long.

The only solution was to cut this parasitic plant from the roots. To our dismay, it had become completely one with the main tree and the only solution was to cut down the whole tree - original and parasite - and dig up every root.

Thinking of the culture of corruption in Kenya, it is quickly swallowing up the integrity tree. It, therefore, requires a concerted effort to remove.

We cannot expect a tree we have steadfastly nurtured over the last 60 years to suddenly come crashing down in a day.

We must work at digging up its roots and denying it the sap that feeds it. We must work at drying it up from below ground.

We have proved over the years that whereas the drama of trimming the leaves and cutting off some branches elicits some excitement; in the long run it has proved a futile exercise. Its foliage is fast growing.

But perhaps Kenyans are looking to see a power saw applied to the lowest part of its trunk, and thus watch it fall with a thud.

While this will certainly be spectacular, yet as long as the roots remain intact, it will soon spring back to life, and with more branches. It will certainly grow deeper and spread its shoots wider.

That is why our strategy must be long-term and our push unrelenting. We, therefore, call on every Kenyan to help us uproot every offshoot near them, even as we starve the main tree at the upper echelons of our nation.

Our greatest task is not to trace the many little roots emanating from this gigantic tree, but to meticulously follow the main roots and cut them off.

But victory will be won the day we identify the tap root and find ways of cutting it off from the original tree.

We must also identify the suppliers of fertiliser that nurture this tree and also block off the main water streams that nourish it.

In the meantime, in the spirit of tree planting, we must embark on planting new trees, free from the corrupting tentacles of parasitic plants.

Our homes, schools, and religious institutions should serve as nurseries for growing pure seedlings for a new forest cover for a corruption-free Kenya. Let us try...